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Archive for May, 2016

The Wonder Dog


Last week I shared about Shiloh (Loving the Beast), and today I introduce, Duke, the Wonder Dog.

If you know our family, or have been reading this blog for awhile, you will know that not everyone in our household had a great love for the Beast. It was a love-hate relationship between the Beast and hubby … she loved him, he hated her. But, in her final year, the hate faded away, and a mutual bond was had.

A few weeks after our household was without our Beast, the unexpected happened when hubby said we needed to get another dog.

WAIT A MINUTE! WHO IS THIS MAN? AND WHAT DID HE DO WITH MY HUSBAND?

He even promised to walk it each day!

The hunt began, for a new fur friend. As our kids are all sixteen and up, this time it would not be intended as a pet for our kids, but a companion for hubby and I.

We had one main need … hair, not fur. Hubby had, sacrificially, lived on allergy medication for the better part of the past ten years, and it had to end.

The evening I found Duke, online, at a nearby rescue, and made plans to meet him first thing the next morning.

When I arrived, and introduced myself, the employees laughed. You see, our last name is Wheaton, and Duke is a Wheaten Terrier breed.

I discussed with the manager Duke’s past, personality and requirements. Duke originated from a puppy mill, and came from a loving but busy household. He also had recently bit a biker. That was NOT in our list of ‘musts’.

I took him for a walk. He was rather stand-offish, I was rather fearful. I then returned him, and said I would talk to my hubby.

The next day, I returned with hubby, for a walk. Duke was like a different dog, excited to smell my familiar body. We said we would discuss and get back to them. Two days later, Duke entered our home, excited to sniff, lick and explore every person and thing in his reach.

Duke is not a perfect dog. He can never be off leash, for fear he might bite another person. He has introduced us to the term counter surfing. He loves to use underwear as chew toys (and, recently, an expensive mouth guard). He struggles to invite visitors into our home (though that is improving, thanks to an amazing trainer). He has pooped on one daughter’s bed … twice! (his actions are not helping their relationship!). When excited, his go to is mouthing (open-mouthed teeth on your hand … not biting, but not very friendly). He SNORES!

All that said, he is perfect for us … hubby and I, and he is our dog.

Duke has made his way into the hearts of our family (though one thinks he is rathery). He loves to ecstatically greet us when we come home (known as the Wheaten greeting). He wants to be with us wherever we are, sitting on the couch, laying at hubby’s feet at his desk, watching me cook, hanging out with us as we do yard work (even though he much prefers being indoors).

Hubby would say I chose Duke because I love a redemption story, and I do. 

At twenty-six years in, this marriage was in need of a symbol of redemption in our life together. Our kids are living more independently each day, and soon our nest will be empty. We have the scars of mistakes, hurts and offences, the failures to love, honour and care for each other that need, not erasing, but redemption.

At this point in our marriage relationship, we need a symbol of a fresh start, a new phase in our life together.

And so, that is Duke, our symbol of redemption … the one that symbolizes a shared future.

As we work on redeeming the loving puppy from the wild animal, we are doing it together, with our eyes fixed on a common end.

 

 

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10351802_10152855583535590_6673932177946581782_nJust over five years ago I introduced you to our beast.

My Loves – The Beast

She became a regular on this blog, as regular as the rest of our crazy family.

Over a year ago she started to tire more quickly, followed by tripping up the stairs, eventually reaching the point that required us to carry her outside to relieve herself.

In those months of deteriorating health, the beast taught our family some very important lessons on life.

Sacrifice 

It began when the beast started slipping on our laminate floors. We needed to allow her onto our carpeted bedroom and living room, so that she would have spaces to share time with us. Hubby, generously, okayed that allowance (despite allergies to her fur). We carried her sixty pound frame outside, and cleaned feces from carpet as she lost the ability to control her bowls. Each sacrifice was accepted by all, not as a sacrifice, but an expression of commitment to her live, to the end.

Move in to the Hurting

As the beast’s ability to move reduced, she could no longer follow us throughout the house, so we moved towards her. As a family, we read, did homework, played video games and wrote sermons together in our living room. She no longer followed us, we came to her. We knew each day with her might be her last, and I think we all wanted to ensure that she was not alone.

Loving Hurts

As we awaited the end of her life, we hurt (even hubby, who used to use her as an example of sin in his sermons). There were memories and moments of our lives tied up in that eternally shedding beast. Our kids grew ten years older with her. She was one who made us feel frustration when she got out, unleashed, running through the neighbourhood with freedoms smile plastered on her face. She made us smile when she joyfully greeted us every time we entered the house. She gave us comfort, as she sat snuggly beside us, or entered our arms for a hug. She amused us with her ‘mean dog’ look … such an act for such a peaceful dog. She tugged at our heart strings when she would nearly dislocate our shoulder if she were to hear a child crying in the distance while out for a walk. Remembering how she added to our lives, made the sorrow of parting greater.

If you are not a dog or animal person, my words and emotions expressed might seem rather over the top. That’s okay, I have been there. But this experience of loving the beast  has taught us much about loving people.

Love is sacrifice.

If we are going to truly love others, we are going to have to sacrifice.

Move in to the hurting.

When someone you love is hurting, go closer to them, not farther away.

Love hurts.

I think C. S. Lewis has said it best:

 

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What is it that can cause a man who has lost almost every earthly blessing to pen it is well?

My most favourite hymn of all time is the haunting story of the blind-eyed faith of Horatio Spafford’s It is Well.

No doubt the story of Spafford writing it, when crossing the Atlantic, at the place where his four daughters drowned (after previously losing his young son to death, and experiencing his financial ruin in the great Chicago Fire) only enhances the significance of it’s meaning.

When I am faced with life-shaking struggles, or mountain-high obstacles that seem impossibly unmovable, or when I just cannot seem to see what is around the next corner, I am confronted with the question,

can I still sing, it is well with?

And I do sing it, sometimes with expectant joy, more often through clenched teeth, robotic.

God does not ask for me (us) to be a mannequin-like worshipper, he wants my (our) gritty heart-broken soul. He wants me (us) to understand what faith is, “the confidence of what we hope for, the assurance of what we do not see” (Hebrews 1:1).

Following this definition of faith are reminders of the those who have lived with blind-eyed faith (Noah, Abraham, Moses, Rahab etc.). The chapter ends with these words:

“These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.” (Hebrews 1:39-40)

If we can have the confidence in our God, that he sees and knows what we do not. If we can hold to his promises, that he has something planned that we might not even live to see. If we can trust in his love for us, then it is well, with our souls.

Though the song below is not Spafford’s version, it holds that same blind-eyed assurance of his faithfulness to us.

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Life carries on …

This was the prevailing thought as I left work today, heavy with the weight of grief in a world that does not cease to spin for anything or anyone.

A colleague for much of the past thirteen years died, after a brief battle with cancer. Though she has been missing from our hallowed halls since before the Christmas break, the finality of death leaves a unexpected shock in its wake. 

We went to sleep last night knowing that our friend and co-worker was experiencing an other-worldly peace that passes understanding, and we awoke today to the everyday battles of work in a high school. 

It wasn’t until the end of the day, when her family were prayed for at a staff meeting, that many of us realized that we had not yet begun to mourn.

And we mourn.

And we know that we will be comforted (Matthew 5:4).

Late last August our staff reunited and dreamed of a new school year, none of us aware that one would cease to breathe life’s sweet breath before June’s final bell rang.

And so we grieve the death of our friend and colleague, we grieve for her family, but we also mourn for ourselves, as our knowledge in the fragility of life has been flashed before our eyes. We are not guaranteed four score and ten. We are only given right now. 

On her “about” page on her blog (nodroppedstitches)she shared who she knew she was:

“I am the creation spoken about in Psalm 139:13 – 16 “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” (NIV)

Our friend was not expected to live, from the moment she was born. Her health was fragile throughout her life, yet she lived to experience so much of what one might dream for … friendships, marriage, children, grandchildren, further education even up to a year ago and gardening through it all. Doctors through the years had hypothesized her end numerous times … but her days were written before her first breath, by the One who breathed life into her.

As is the same for each one of us.

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What a week our household ended April with! What a wonder-filled week!

The week began with our youngest daughter starting her final practicum, in her quest to complete her Special Education Teaching Assistant (SETA) course. 

This time she is placed in a high school, even working with a couple of students who were actually born before her. Challenge is the key God uses, most often, to unlock our most hidden gifts. I pray she opens her door wide and shares her strength, building her character, and using it as a tool to open the locks on her the students she encounters.

Though she intends to continue her education, she will soon be unleashed from this program, certified to work with those students in the margins. Using what she has learned, and who God created her to be, to do her job. She will do her job so very well, for she has been gifted to see strengths in the weak.

I know she is eyeing freedom, desiring to share an apartment with friends, living her life independent from mom and dad.

Last Monday night I sat in a dark gymnasium, heart in my throat, as I anticipated the start of the high school play in which my son was acting. 

The story, by George Orwell, called 1984, has been a time of stretching for my boy-man. My ‘baby boy’ traded in his sweet and affectionate nature for the pure evil of O’Brian. Each performance he had to get in touch with his carnal dark side … yelling, torturing, destroying. 

A couple of weeks ago it was getting to him, greatly. The character of O’Brian was invading him, extinguishing the light with it’s smothering darkness. I prayed. I asked others to pray. Then, last week, the dark was being pushed out by the light. 

The most heart-warming moment of the week was when, as I was chatting with a mom of another character, who I had not seen or spoken to in months. She asked how my son was, because, just days before, her daughter came home saying that they really needed to pray for him, because his character was getting to him. Is there any greater gift, for a parent, than to be told someone is praying for your child?

His efforts and the cost to him payed off in full, as he interpreted well Owell’s character. His (5) performances were believable and authentic. The entire cast depicted the evils of this story so well, and the entire cast, crew and director were as authentic in their support and care for each other.

He is now, once again, fully himself. O’Brien is gone, may his character be gone forever, may his lessons forever be remembered.

That week ended in an event centre, watching our eldest cross the stage, have her tassel moved from one side to another, receive a diploma, and pose for a picture.

That short walk was the culmination of six years of hard work … her hard work. I found myself hearing the song If it Hadn’t Been for You, from the musical, Anne of Green Gables, as her name was read to cross the stage.

It was she, who earned the double major (Sociology and Psychology) degree, by studying hard, writing mountains of papers, and working numerous jobs along the way, to pay for half of her schooling costs (the government of Canada helped with the rest … but this too falls in her lap).

As Miss Stacey said, “why she did it herself, with imagination and determination”

I hold on to a fair measure of parent guilt, for encouraging her to pursue education at such an expensive university, and having little to contribute to it’s costs. Though I do know she received a wonderful education, by the relationships she has made, and will continue to have with her profs, who educated, encouraged, challenged and cared for my girl.

The world is now an open book to her. She is well on her way, making plans for the future, her future. Her plans, though not solidified, are to move away. This makes my heart ache, and soar all at the same time. For “hope is the thing with feathers” (Dickinson).

These are the memories of that wonder-filled week. That week that was the culmination of much patience, for each of my children. The practise of patience will continue, throughout our lives. May my three have the patience to pursue what they hope for, all the days of their lives.

 

Romans-8.25

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